Kane Hollingsworth is back in the States from a semester in Spain and itching for some southern food and hospitality. She's a Charlotte, NC, native who is spending her summer interning with Charleston magazine. A simple girl at heart, Kane loves bearded men, bottomless mimosas and breakfast foods, and she is looking forward to enjoying daily life in the Lowcountry. Go Heels!
Living in Charleston is a bit like playing golf: you have to get dressed up to sweat. That’s why when my aunt came to town this past weekend and suggested a walking tour of the city I thought,
kill me now oh joy.
With our battery-powered mini fans in tow, we met our tour guide, Mary Coy, in front of The Powder Magazine. At a cool 90 degrees with only 43 percent humidity, I was feeling good. We embarked on our tour, and somewhere between the sweating, hand fanning, and Church Street I fell in love.
I know you’ve been there. Whether you grew up here in one of those signature single houses, or you’re like me—a summer transplant who mainly explores the city en route to various ice cream shops—you’re probably guilty of overlooking the pull of this place, only to discover it again when you slip on your tourist shoes and roam the streets anew. Not all of Charleston’s quirks are pretty in the traditional sense of the word, but they make an impression nevertheless. Allow me to remind you of a couple of the things that make seeing Charleston for the first time an incredible experience.
Let’s start with what I like to call the “booty bench.” You’ve seen it, you’ve scoffed at it and you’ve probably anxiously honked your car horn trying to get past it. Oh the allure of the Charleston carriage rides. Regardless of what side of the carriage tour debate you fall on, I think we can all agree on the misfortune of the poor patrons that get stuck in the back row, bulbous bums poking between the gap in the seat and the seat back for everyone to see. Now, I had some first-time carriage goers with me when my aunt visited so we just had to take a carriage tour.
The "booty bench"
I wore my good white jean shorts, the ones that have this magical way of combining the power of Spanx and illusion, resulting in a (usually) visibly appealing derrière. Not that day. Despite my silent willingness to not sit at the back of the bus, they pointed to me and then pointed to what I imagine hell to resemble. I braced myself for the impact and felt my butt sink into “booty bench” position. Great. For me, the majority of the ride was spent willing my rear to behave itself and making a conscious effort to avert my eyes from the “booty bench” in the future, now feeling its humiliation firsthand.
How can you talk about Charleston without talking about the houses? Between the grandeur of the Battery homes and the trademark of Rainbow Row, the city of Charleston has done it right with their architecture. A girl could get lost admiring the different shades of blue painted on ceilings of sprawling porches, complete with porch swings and Labrador retrievers panting through the summer heat. Creeping ivy, wrought iron gates, cobbled drives, and peeling painted brick has swallowed Charleston whole, creating an “I could get used to this” sentiment in even the most skeptic of passerby. This place is beautiful. And that’s an understatement.
The houses here have this mysterious power of evoking dreams in the people who pass by them. What do I see when I slow down to admire the blue single house on East Bay Street? I see myself opening a bottle of wine at the end of the day and not doing the workout video I just bought. I see myself drinking homemade sweet tea on the porch and lighting tiki torches on the back patio. I see the slow and easy salt life I’ve come to imagine for Charleston. Cheers to that.
Are you searching the directory for tour guides yet? You should be. Slip on some clean glasses and for God’s sake, grab a fan, and see the harbor for the umpteenth time, but through a different light. Hear the history of the port and get drawn into a sweet shop by the sickly-sweet smell of praline candy. You are so lucky to live here. Cherish it.
Carriage image from oldsouthcarriagetours.com